I remember the days I used to get home after a walk and churn out another Fatdog “Tail” by 10pm the same evening. Four evenings since our visit to Arran and I’m still trying to complete the damned thing…soon the writing will be as slow as my walking 😀 .
The Intro found us on the Arran Ferry with a motley collection of dugs and owners…so as soon as we were down the gangway we made our break for freedom from the floating doggy psychiatric hospital…
Once off the ferry we bypassed the buses (on reflection a mistake) and headed north along the Brodick promenade, turning first available right in the general direction of the golf course. As the road ends a path appears, guiding you between long tidal channels behind the beach and the cropped greens of the wee white ball bashers.
Goatfell is a real poser of a mountain! So much does it dominate Brodick Bay it’s almost impossible to ignore it. It elbows out other potential camera subjects and will sneak into the background of shots when you’re not looking. We did elude it briefly to watch a heron on the other side of a narrow creek.
The path continued to follow the beach/golf course boundary other than for one slightly inland diversion to meet a footbridge over the Glenrosa Water but once over the path cut an immediate right back towards the shore. So for the last few hundred metres before the village of Cladach we walked along the beach. By this time the 3 dugs (mentioned in the intro) had caught up. While two sniped noisily at each other, the hormone driven “friendly” one insisted in forcing his unwelcome attentions on a puzzled Fatdog. Despairing at the totally ineffective shouting by his owner I removed him by a thinly disguised death-hold on his collar.
Leaving behind the choking dog, we left the beach and crossed the main road from just opposite the track to the Arran Brewery. From here the route is a simple one; check the information board at the start, then follow the signs. It’s almost impossible to go wrong…even taking into account our wayward navigation while driving to Ardrossan.
Parched tongues dragged longingly along the gravel path as…somewhat reluctantly…we filed slowly past the brewery, but it was just a bit too early in the day. Our route was now enclosed by tall trees and rhododendrons as the gentle climb began, the warm air filled with the gentle buzzing of insects and the snarling growl of chainsaws…the rhododendrons were taking a right pasting. The snarling and growling continued behind us as we gained height – but now it was the snarling and growling of those battling dugs that predominated. They were catching up.
It was hot as we left the tall trees for the swath of native planting above the main forestry. The sun blazed down and the breeze was non-existent and I for one was glad when we reached the gate at the limit of the Forestry Commission ground and moved onto the barren slopes of Goatfell owned by the National Trust.
That relief didn’t last long. That has to be the most deceptively long corrie approach I’ve ever come across. The small human dots on the path ahead never seemed to get any closer and once we reached where the path tops the east ridge, those same small dots seemed to take an eternity to make any progress up the steep rock steps of the last 270m of ascent to the summit.
I’d been struggling over that last 100m of ascent onto the east ridge. The constant stepping on hard rock had been stressing my right leg. I contemplated calling it a day at this point as we seemed to be still a long way off the summit but I find it difficult to do the sensible thing…so upward we plodded…my steps becoming smaller and s-l-o-w-e-r. I think my expectations (of my abilities) are too high as, on reflection, there didn’t seem to be much difference (overall) between the speed of my ascent and that of other walkers in the area at the same time. I just appeared to be closer to rigor mortis.
By way of contrast Cap’n Jack, who had been feeling the pace early on, had disappeared onto the big rocks away from the path and was having a jolly old time scrambling all over them…then appearing on the path some 50m in front. He can be a smug wee so-and-so! Oh for a fraction of that energy. We appear to have an oddly symbiotic relationship, Cap’n Jack and I, in that when he is struggling I’m at my best…and vice versa. It’s almost like we steal energy from each other. Must be something to do with shared genes. Sadly the balance is very much in his favour these days though, in fairness, later on he did offer to carry my pack when my back and right leg were giving me problems and I was struggling on the descent.
But for the moment we’re still at the “up” part of this “tail”
It was hell, but we got there…along with the radio hams, the teenage explorers, the fell runners, the wayward dugs, my fellow geriatrics not to mention a cast of thousands of big black ugly flies and the ever present throng of carnivorous west coast midges.
The Fatdog collapsed, a wallowing, panting heap now lurking in the shade of a big rock, only moving to take a big drink from her water tub. Meanwhile I shuffled off with the camera to take photos of the stunning ridgelines to the north and west. The clear skies meant that everything the Arran mountains had to offer was on view. Cir Mhor, Caisteal Abhail, Beinn Tarsuin, A’ Chir, the Witch’s Step.
I hobbled stiff-legged across the weathered granite boulders of Goatfell summit. I had hoped we’d be able to press on to North Goatfell, but my legs had no chance of taking me any further along that ridge…and The Fatdog was looking pretty beat as well. As I watched with envy those fit enough to march off happily towards North Goatfell and the ridge beyond to Cir Mhor, I regretted the choice of walking from the ferry.
That extra 3km to the start of the hill proper had cost me a kilometre or so of stunning ridgewalk. Sadly there was no way my legs would allow any more ascent so we took a few photos, had a black fly and midge sandwich, then dropped back down the rock steps and into the corrie.
While the last few hundred metres of ascent had been a killer the descent proved to be a slow, achy, process. The right leg, overstressed on the ascent, was now at the non-functioning stage. It was thoroughly pissed off. It had to lead on all the down steps and was overworked in the extreme. When I rested I could feel all the muscles pulsating.
We had hoped to catch the ferry at 4.40pm but in reality that idea went out the window due to my slow ascent. Now that my descent was almost as slow we were left with only one option.
Catch the next Ferry?
Of course…but more importantly…
Visit the Brewery!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Much later, as I stood on the deck watching the sun go down over Arran, my thoughts turned to a revision of what The Fatdog and I should be attempting given my current struggles with even the simplest of hill routes…
…but they were drowned out by a sudden snarling and growling!
“…those bloody dugs!”
My thanks to Cap’n Jack for contributing a good number of photos for this “Tail” 😀